Perhaps one of the most infl uential literary evocations of the scene of savagery is the moment in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness when, as he nears his journey’s end, Marlow, surprised by the whirl of black limbs on the river bank, asks:

The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us – who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse. We could not understand, because we were too far and could not remember, because we were travelling in the night of first ages, of those ages that are gone, leaving hardly a sign – and no memories.